Ashley Madden's new cookbook is the culmination of her own culinary journey after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 13 years ago.
Originally from St. John's and now living in Taiwan, the holistic nutritionist penned The Plant-Based Cookbook: Vegan, Gluten Free, Oil Free Recipes for Lifelong Health.
"The systems of the body are all connected, and what we put into our bodies, what we eat and how we live affects all of our body systems, all of our organs," Madden, who is also a pharmacist and trained plant-based chef, told CBC Radio's On The Go.
"What I really wanted to know when I was diagnosed with MS was what kind of diet or what kind of lifestyle can decrease the amount of inflammation in my body, because MS is an autoimmune disease."
So began Madden's research into dietary choices to combat inflammation, which led her to studying how dairy and saturated fats impacted the body negatively.
"That's where it all began. I started putting the pieces together and that really encouraged me to take the leap," she said.
"I still very much believe in a multi-disciplinary approach to health care. I believe in medical intervention, and doctors and prescriptions and all those kinds of things. But, what we're really learning is that diet and lifestyle choices can delay the need for these kinds of interventions."
A cookbook for everyone
Madden's new book isn't only for those who are worried about their health, she said. Instead, it's for anyone who is experimenting with their diet, and includes familiar dishes with a healthy alternative.
"I put in a lot of dishes that are familiar, like burgers, cakes, spaghetti, pancakes and casseroles," said Madden. "
"I just wanted to show people and give them tools to learn how to spin the recipes so they're uber healthy, but still super delicious."
And for those who haven't quite taken the plunge into healthier eating, Madden said it's important to keep an open mind and trust the alternative is just as good.
"I think there's a curiosity there.… It just takes one trip to the grocery store, or one attempt at making a vegan meal to really understand that it's actually not so different, it's actually not so foreign," she said.
"It's not about being perfect. My mantra is 'less processed food, more plant foods' and the more you move in that direction the better you are. A perfect diet is kind of an illusion. There's no such thing, so every little step counts."